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February 22, 2009
Glynn Environmental Coalition
P. O. Box 2443
Brunswick, Georgia  31521-2443
Tel. (912) 466-0934
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
CONTACT: Daniel Parshley

Elementary Test Scores and Toxic Air Show Link


USA Today recently published a special report identifying schools that might be in, what the report called, "toxic hot spots".  The computer simulation used by USA Today to identify schools in these toxic hot spots was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 With the help of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and using chemical release data from the year 2005, USA Today plotted the locations of 127,800public, private and parochial schools to rank them based on the concentration and health hazards of chemicals likely to be in the air outside [of these schools].  The Glynn Environmental Coalition went one step further and matched the readings and math proficiency test scores of Glynn County elementary schools with the air ranking scores.

 According to the toxic release inventory, toxic air pollution in Glynn County dropped from 14.1million pounds in 1988 to 2.3 million pounds by 2005.  "We definitely made significant progress in efforts to clean the air in Glynn County during the 1988 to 2005period," said Bill Owens, President of the GEC.  "However, we still have a ways to go," he continued, "given the correlation between math and reading proficiency test scores and air pollution at the 2.3 million pound levels." 

 Owens cited two examples of Glynn County elementary schools to highlight his observation regarding the correlation between air pollution and test scores:  Burroughs-Mollett and Goodyear.  The 2005 air ranking by USA Today ranked these two schools at 5% and 9%, respectively. These percentages relate to exposure to cancer-causing toxins and other toxic chemicals.  Test score-wise; these schools had a math/reading proficiency of 69.7% and 74.3%, respectively; a clear correlation between test scores and their air pollution ranking.

“The correlation between toxic air and Glynn County elementary school test scores was stunning,” said Owens.  “The elementary schools with the most polluted air ranking had the lowest test scores.  The results seem to confirm that young students are the most vulnerable to toxic air.”

The U.S. EPA has a special office charged with protecting children's health and has invested millions of taxpayer dollars in pollution models to help identify schools where toxic chemicals saturate the air.  “Apparently the agency has ignored examining if the air is unsafe at locations where kids are required to gather,” said Owens.

Comparison of Air Toxics and Test Scores for Glynn County

Elementary School

Reading & Math Proficiency %

Most Air Pollution Ranking %













Golden Isles



Satilla Marsh



St. Simons






Oglethorpe Point




School Data Direct

School Matters – A Service of Standards and Poor

Young students often most vulnerable to toxic air

Background Information

The computer simulation used by USA TODAY to identify schools that might be in toxic hot spots was developed by the EPA.   Called Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators, its purpose is to trace the potential path of chemicals and compare one location to another.   Bob Lee, an EPA official who oversees the model, called USA TODAY's use of it "highly appropriate" and "the kind of thing that makes a lot of sense."

With the help of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA TODAY plotted the locations of schools to rank them based on chemicals likely to be in the air outside.   Some of the schools and the companies responsible for the chemicals have closed or moved since the government collected the data.   Others may have opened.   That means the data are not definitive but a snapshot in time.

P.O. Box 2443, Brunswick, GA 31521    ♦    912-466-0934    ♦
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